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Bellator announces the launch of Bellator Kickboxing

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Esther Lin, Showtime Sports

HOUSTON -- Bellator MMA is re-entering the kickboxing game, and this time it is taking matters into its own hands. Bellator president Scott Coker announced Thursday the launch of Bellator Kickboxing, a kickboxing entity that will work hand-in-hand with Spike TV and Viacom, essentially filling the role GLORY once held at the network.

Bellator Kickboxing debuts April 16 in Torino, Italy with a co-promoted Oktagon Kickboxing show that sees MMA and kickboxing veteran Melvin Manhoef take on Alexandru Negrea in the main event. Mustapha Haida challenges Karim Ghajii in a five-round 75kg (165 pounds) title fight in the co-headlining bout.

Veteran kickboxers Raymond Daniels, Kevin Ross, and Denise Kielholtz are also expected to compete on the card, which airs on Spike TV following the conclusion of Bellator 152.

Coker said he jumped at the opportunity to start his own promotion once the relationship between Spike TV and GLORY disbanded in 2015.

The entry of Bellator Kickboxing will allow fighters under the Bellator umbrella the choice to compete in both sports moving forward, and Coker said he wanted Bellator to be an "open book" for fighters looking to explore their options.

"We know how to do this as good or better than anybody," Coker said. "Because this kickboxing business is something I've been doing for a long time. It's something that I felt like, we could do it properly. Let's get our fighters that want to fight in kickboxing, who are fighting MMA right now, and let them fight on both sides of the ledger."

Among those who plan to take advantage of the opportunity is Joe Schilling, a top-ranked kickboxer who has competed under both the GLORY and Bellator banners.

Schilling currently has two fights remaining on his GLORY contract, including a scheduled bout against Mike Lemaire on Feb. 26, after which he plans to move to Bellator full-time.

Coker added that the move gives Bellator the flexibility to promote both standalone kickboxing and MMA shows, along with mixed shows like September's Bellator Dynamite event.

Bellator Kickboxing will operate under K-1 rules, meaning elbow strikes will be illegal. The promotion also plans to stage several small Road to Bellator tournaments throughout the world in the lead-up to its April debut.